Poor, black counties to receive coal ash from TVA cleanup

Criticism continues to fly as the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) labors on with its extensive and expensive coal ash cleanup effort following the December 22, 2008, spill from its Kingston, Tennessee, fossil fuel plant. A breach in an impoundment pond dumped more than a billion gallons of coal ash on to a neighboring community, destroying homes and damaging property in its wake. The Institute for Southern Studies now finds that the counties where the utility will be dumping much of the coal ash retrieved from the community in which it was spilled are largely populated by African Americans and have high poverty rates.

The locations were identified through TVA documents and interviews as a landfill in Taylor County near Mauk, Georgia, and a municipal waste landfill in Perry County in west central Alabama. According to landfill officials in Georgia and Alabama, the facilities are lined with both clay and synthetic barriers, which offers more protection than the unlined surface where the TVA stored ash at its Kingston, Tennessee plant.

Coal ash contains toxic material such as arsenic, lead, chromium, manganese and barium, which have been found to cause serious health issues such as cancer, liver damage and neurological complications.

According to The Institute for Southern Studies, the communities slated to receive the coal ash did not have a chance for meaningful involvement in the decision to store the coal ash in its landfills. Neither the TVA nor regulatory authorities provided an opportunity for public comment.